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Noem Holds Pine Beetle Meeting in Black Hills Today, Hears Two Big Donors

Last updated on 2011.07.11

Congresswoman Kristi Noem is in the bug-beset Black Hills today. She's convening a field meeting of her House Natural Resources subcommittee to discuss the pine beetle epidemic. We've allowed trees to grow unnaturally thick in the Hills, making an easy smorgasbord for pine beetles, which turn great swaths of forest from green to rust. According to Black Hills National Forest supervisor Craig A. Bobzien (who testifies before Reps. Noem, Lummis, and Bishop today at 11:30 MDT at the Rafter J Bar Ranch near Hill City), pine beetles infest trees on a third of the 1.2 million national forest acres, and another third remains at risk.

Also slated to testify today are South Dakota state foresters Ray Sowers and Nort Johnson, meeting host and campground owner Todd George, lumber exec Jim Neiman, and medical exec and Hill City landowner James Scherrer.

All six of the men chosen to testify at today's hearing bring relevant knowledge and personal experience to the pine beetle issue. It is worth noting that among the non-governmental speakers at today's meeting, Noem and her colleagues will hear only from the business and landowner side and not from any representatives of environmental groups.

Noem will hear a lot of what she wants to hear: paeans to private enterprise and criticism of bumbling bureaucracy. Neiman will cite Teddy Roosevelt's claim that the overarching aim of forest policy is not natural beauty or wild animals but "the making of prosperous homes." Scherrer will blame some "small minority of our citizens, most of whom are not even residents of the Black Hills, [who] have used the court system, political manipulation, and our own over bloated bureaucracy" for blocking the fight against pine beetles.

But Noem will also face the usual challenge of playing up her small government cred while responding positively to calls for more federal spending in South Dakota's interest. Neiman will complain that the Black Hills National Forest has not received the full funding it requested. He will call for additional funds for proactive thinning and continued disbursements from the federal forest funds to counties for schools and roads.

In his complaint about outsiders blocking logging, Scherrer notes with dismay that "very squeaky wheels get the grease." In that spirit, it is worth noting that Scherrer was a pretty squeaky wheel in the Noem campaign last year. He put $4500 into Kristi Noem's campaign kitty last year. (In some strange campaign finance chess, in the 2008 cycle, Scherrer gave $2000 to the Republican National Committee, $1098 to Tim Johnson, $2000 to New York Democrat Charles Rangel, and $2000 to Michigan Democrat John Dingell.)

Campaign finance data available from the FEC online database.

Jim Neiman has also been a frequent flyer in federal campaign finance filings. He has given significant amounts to Tom Daschle, John Thune, Tim Johnson, the National Republican Congressional Committee, the Wyoming Republican Party, and, during last year's campaign, $2000 to Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. Just three months after his investment in Herseth Sandlin went belly up, Neiman sent Congresswoman Kristi Noem $1000. Neiman has made past appearances before Congressional committees on the pine beetle issue (see House Ag testimony in 2009, 2010).

Individuals testifying to the committee are required to file a disclosure form listing federal contracts and grants they've received from the relevant agencies. But there is no explicit question on that form about money that's gone the other direction, from testifiers to members of Congress listening to that testimony.

I do not question the need for continued action by the National Forest Service to stop the spread of the pine beetle. I do find it interesting that, out of a hundred thousand regular citizens who live and work in the Black Hills, two out of three non-government employees testifying have given big money to the woman chairing the hearing.

Squeak squeak.

Update 2011.07.11 09:00 CDT: Kevin Woster covers the hearing, including disgruntlement from locals that only the pre-selected witnesses got to speak. No Q&A, no comment allowed from the 250 or so folks who attended the unusual open-air hearing, just testimony from the folks Noem wanted to hear.


  1. larry kurtz 2011.07.10

    Member Infestation Listing Federal Funding Forms.

  2. mike 2011.07.10

    This is where journalism has gone dead in SD. There is nothing partisan about a reporter reporting this stuff in a newspaper.

  3. Michael Black 2011.07.10

    According to the latest news from Washington, the debt ceiling legislation is deader than a doornail. Noem and the rest of the Tea Party have vowed to vote against any increase. That is fine, BUT we must realize that we will either be in default as a nation or we will have to cut all funding that isn't absolutely necessary.

    In other words, any meetings in the Black Hills about forest management mean absolutely nothing because soon there will be no checks for forest service employees.

    Think this will not happen? We only have to look to Minnesota...

    I have hiked all through the Black Hills. I have seen what pine beetles can do. It takes a great deal of time, energy and money to try to slow down the infestation. A lack of funding means that we will have to sacrifice more of the national forest than we would like. A lot of things that we would like to see done are not going to happen. We just have to do the best we can with the hand dealt us.

  4. mike 2011.07.10

    NOem has decided that Herseth's way was right. I'm not seeing a lot of difference between the two accept that Noem is a hypocrite when it comes to federal spending.

    Herseth might have actually been a good member in this congress because her moderate voice would likely encourage a deal to get done.

  5. Kelly Fuller 2011.07.10

    Conservationists were not allowed to testify at the recent House Natural Resources Committee hearings on renewable energy, either.

  6. larry kurtz 2011.07.10

    Exactly. The smart money is in litigation. Not unlike the debt ceiling negotiations...when politics fails, send in the lawyers.

    No worries: it's nothing that the Yellowstone supervolcano won't fix.

    Rewild the West.

  7. Mark O'Loughlen 2011.07.10

    The issue boils down to improper forest management, not really a money matter. A good example is how a fire is dealt with in Yellowstone NP compared to the adjacent Shoshone National Forest. You see distinct and clear damage by the beatles in the National Forest, where fire suppression activities are much more aggresive. However, in Yellowstone where fires are allowed to naturally take their course (most of the time) you do not see as much beatle damage. By allowing nature to manage itself, the beatles go away as well.

    The Black Hills are getting hit hard now with the beatles because of aggresive fire suppression over the years. Mostly because the Black Hills is rather heavy populated, so to save peoples homes and businesses, they had to fight the fires.

    So in actuality, it would cost the government less to let more fires burn naturally, and help slow down the beatle infestation without spending more tax dollars.

  8. larry kurtz 2011.07.10

    Thank you, Mark. For those of you who just can't enough, ip posted to Krusti's Mrs. Noem's bug essay in the Rapid City Journal. And at David Montgomery's piece where he slyly lampooned a few members of the Pennington County commission because they're shitheads, ip drafted a thumbnail sketch to the final Black Hills ponderosa pine solution.

    Have a nice day, South Dakota.

  9. mike 2011.07.10


    That is very interesting. I hadn't thought of that. We humans do try to control nature and those beetle I'm sure serve a purpose (I'm not sure what it is).

    This is where politics gets annoying. Why can't we just have a conversation about this and get to a solution...

  10. Douglas Wiken 2011.07.11

    Noem votes to slash funding and promises worse to come and then suggests that government should do more. She puts plus 5 together with minus 2 and gets seven.

    Why aren't Woster and the rest pointing out the complete mythological internally contradictory nonsense that these wingnut loons are spreading?

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